JIM'S STORY

I was born on January 12, 1945, the fourth child of seven in an Irish Catholic family in Boston, Massachusetts. My Catholic upbringing made me very guilty about sin but I never found anyone who could tell me how to be delivered from my sins. The faithful witness of God in my heart would never let me rest content with a sinning and repenting religion. On two different occasions during my adolescent years I found myself at the priests' rectory door at night seeking deliverance from sin. But they had no solution for me. I know now that if I had only sought God with earnestness and resolve, He would have shown me how to keep myself from sin. As I grew older I saw that my friends did not seem to be terribly concerned about their sins and so I followed the crowd.

Since God could not get me to seek Him by troubling me about sin, He tried another way. One night while lying on the ground looking up into the clear night sky, the question entered my mind, "Where did it all end up there?" Suddenly the concept of infinity overwhelmed my mind. All of a sudden I felt so small and the creation seemed so immense. What was the purpose of it all? What were we all doing here anyway?

This experience caused me to start seriously questioning the real meaning of life. It began to seem very foolish to me that human beings could live out their lives here on earth and then one day die without knowing why they were here to begin with. I would talk about it with my friends but no one had any answers.

The question troubled me so much that one night when I was about seventeen I went to my bedroom in tears begging God to show me the reason for our existence. No immediate answer came. So I decided to try reading what the philosophers had to say. After much study I saw that all they had were theories. Once again, seeing the carelessness of my friends, I put the search behind me. I went to school, worked afterwards and when the weekends came, I drank and partied with my friends. Again, God's effort to get me to seek Him with my whole heart failed.

No doubt, I would have become a drunk if it were not for an earth shattering event that made me change my ways. If God could not get me to pursue Him by questioning what life was all about, perhaps He could get me to pursue Him by considering the reality of death. On December 26, 1966, I returned home at 4 A.M. after a Christmas night of carousing with a friend. As I approached the front door, an inward feeling came over me that my mother's dead body was just on the other side of the door. Sure enough, as I slowly opened the door, it came up against something soft. I gazed around the door and there was the gruesome sight of my mother's dead body. As was her habit, she had left the paperboy some change on the outside window ledge, came back in the house, turned to go up the stairs and was smitten with a massive coronary. She fell back and hit her head on a cast iron radiator and died instantly.

So there was my mother. The woman who had loved and raised me and my six sisters. One moment she is here. The next moment she is a cold lifeless form lying in a pool of blood. As I fell on my knees beside her body, my wail up to heaven was, Why? Why? Why?

In the immense void left in our home by my mother's sudden death, that question hung in the air. Why did my mother have to die just now? Why do we all have to die? Is there really a life beyond the grave? Do people really have souls? Is there really a God, a heaven, a hell? Is there anyone who could tell me for sure? None of the priests, nuns, friends, or relatives, could tell me with that know-so that I was looking for. This tragic event put a sudden stop to my wildness and made me a seeker again for a short time. But once again I tired of the search. O, if I had only sought God alone for the answer instead of endless reasonings with friends and acquaintances. If I had sought Him with a purpose, surely He would have answered! But it seems I had one more road to follow before I would whole-heartedly seek Him.

After my mother's death, I saw that I could not remain in this melancholy frame of mind. In those days I began to hear about a new movement in California. Thousands of young people were dropping out of mainstream society, living together, taking drugs, engaging in free love, and working as little as possible or not at all. They called themselves flower children and later became known as hippies. I was aghast at their unabashed sinfulness. The idea of taking drugs frightened me. Surely it would lead to a lifelong addiction. I vowed I would never do those things that I heard they did.

But then one day a group of these hippies moved into an apartment next door to where I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They seemed so carefree. I became acquainted with one of them and one day he left me a little cake of hashish, a form of marijuana. The thought of a lifelong addiction frightened me. But how could I be more miserable than I was at that time anyway? And so I tried it. The next morning when I saw that I was not craving more, I decided that perhaps I was wrong about getting addicted. This started a three year plunge. Now I am well qualified to say to anyone that there is a direct relationship between sin and misery. The more sin in a person's life the more miserable he or she will be.

One day in the fall of 1971 I came to myself. I saw that if I continued this mad, wild life that I was living, it would end up in an early death. But what was I to do? To suddenly stop everything and go back to a normal life seemed more than I could do. So I devised a plan to help me make the transition back to a straight life. I would save some money, quit work, and travel in Europe for a few months.

I always had a kind of fairy tale idea in my mind that the people in Europe were different. With all of the history that had gone on over there, surely the people must lead more sane, mature, settled and happy lives. What a disappointment! I traveled through fourteen different countries only to find that the human condition is basically the same no matter where one goes. Everybody has the same basic desires, emotions, life problems and needs. There is no such thing as a utopia on earth.

But while I was hitchhiking in northern Ireland, I had an experience that changed my life. It was December and a cold rain was falling. The cars were few and no one would pick me up. Suddenly I felt so frustrated. It seemed like nothing I tried in life would ever make me happy. It even seemed that God Himself was against me. In my ignorance and frustration, I lifted my fist toward heaven and cursed God. But then I took a few more steps, broke down and begged God to help me.

At that moment a secret hope sprang up in my heart and I had the distinct impression that if I would make a sustained effort to seek God for Himself alone that I might find Him. Therefore I determined from that point that I would make a single-hearted effort to find Him.

When I got back to the States in March, I began to read the Bible. I tried giving up my sins. There was a reformation in my life, but I could not completely overcome all my sins. I moved up to Maine onto a farm that I had part ownership in. I thought the country atmosphere would help me in my search. I believed that God was going to come into my life but I did not know how.

In the fall, Paula, one of the friends that I had invited up to the farm went to the local hospital to apply for a job. While waiting for an interview, she picked up a religious tract that was on a table in the lobby. As she began reading, she suddenly became aware of the presence of God. The words of the tract burned in her heart and she knew what it was saying was true. She had read religious literature before but this booklet was different.

Later that day she gave me the tract to read. I was impressed with it and so we determined to go see the author who lived only a few miles away from us. But we did not go for about ten days because as I considered going to see him, it began dawning in on me just what it might mean for me if this really was the truth. The witness of God in my heart told me that it would mean a total commitment. To be religious I was willing, but to give up my whole life to God seemed more than I thought I could do. However, I had been searching too long to let this opportunity pass by and so finally three of my friends and I went to see the author.

That afternoon I heard the truth for the first time in my life. At the end of the visit, the man told me he had nothing to offer me but a cross. It was with those words that the real struggle of my life began. Was I going to yield to God and His truth or continue on my own path and ignore the call of God? I knew God wanted a total surrender.

I finally mustered up enough courage to go to one of the Friends of Jesus Christ meetings with Paula. God had been powerfully dealing with her. I personally felt nothing in the meeting but at the end of the service Paula gave herself to God. That afternoon I could tell by the inner peace that I sensed from her that she had really found God. Now the full weight of the thing was on me. But how was I to get saved?

The next day I was all by myself driving down a snow covered back road. We had borrowed a four wheel drive pick up truck from a friend to get some firewood and I was returning it to him. Frustration was building up in me because I could not find God. Finally I lifted my eyes to heaven and begged God to give me a sign or do something so that I could know it was Him and so that I could somehow make the transaction that would save my soul.

But as I continued on down the road, no answer came. Despair began to set in and I began to think that the whole thing was just a hoax. God was too big to hear some little human creature praying to Him, if He did in fact exist. As I was in the middle of these dark thoughts, suddenly the truck started going out of control for no apparent reason. It spun around in the road and then began to skid towards a tree on the driver's side. I closed my eyes and cried out to God. I hit the tree with the left front fender and came to sudden halt.

As I sat there dazed, I knew without a doubt that if I had gotten killed, I would have gone straight to hell. Fear gripped my heart. Then I looked up and there nailed to a tree right beside the driver's side window was a sign. It said, NO HUNTING. NO TRESPASSING. I knew exactly what it meant. No more hunting for truth and no more trespassing against God. This was it. God had finally brought me to the end of my rope. I broke down and told God I could not go on anymore like this and I begged Him to take me.

At that moment I suddenly felt the Spirit of God come into my soul. I was amazed. I knew God had accepted me. As the day went on His presence kept growing within me. I now knew for sure that God was real. Satan was real. Heaven and hell were real. Therefore, I thought to myself, I must try real hard and make sure that I do not sin anymore. But to my great surprise and delight I discovered that what had been born in me, the grace of God, gave me immediate victory. Sins that had plagued me from my youth just fell away.

I have had time now to test the reality of this experience. As I write this story twenty-one years later, I can report that His grace is upholding me still. Peace is mine and an inward assurance of heaven is mine through the glorious new birth. The question of existence is answered. We are here to seek, find and serve God. There is no other purpose to life.

Dear Reader,

Do you not want to find God, too? You do not have to go through all that I did. Simply tell Him that you want Him to come into your heart and keep up your pursuit until He comes. If you earnestly seek Him, He will be faithful to you just as He was to me.

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